February 19, 1923

CON

Leon Johnson Ladner

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. L. J. LADNER (Vancouver South):

I think the best argument in favour of the proposition of the hon. member for Brant has been the complete silence of the members of the government and their failure to express themselves in any way upon this important question because it is an important question. I take for the basis of my remarks the speech of the right hon. Prime Minister (Mr. Mackenzie King) given a few days ago, with respect to the resolution regarding the want of confidence vote. The right hon. gentleman at that time-

Topic:   PROPORTIONAL REPRESENTATION IN MULTIMEMBER CONSTITUENCIES
Permalink
LIB

Hewitt Bostock (Speaker of the Senate)

Liberal

Mr. SPEAKER:

The hon. gentleman cannot quote from a debate which took place during the present session.

Topic:   PROPORTIONAL REPRESENTATION IN MULTIMEMBER CONSTITUENCIES
Permalink
CON

Leon Johnson Ladner

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. LADNER:

Well, Mr. Speaker, I

understand that the position of the government might be implied from the statements that we have heard from time to time, and among them I recollect a contention that at this stage in our procedure or in our constitutional development we should be careful about having any innovations. We were reminded that the British system of government has been built up over a long period of time, step by step, during which period innovations or changes have been carefully thought out and the effect of them upon the system has been weighed before any change has been made. The real point of this debate, in my opinion, centres around the application of proportional representation to our federal system, the British system of government, in which there is cabinet responsibility to the House. That point I have not heard fully dealt with by the hon. member

for Brant (Mr. Good) but I would suggest to him that the keystone of our structure of government is the Cabinet, and as an instrument of government its great power is its unity and the joint responsibility of every member for all its decisions to the House of Commons. Once you destroy the effectiveness of co-operation of the different members of the Cabinet, you make it impossible for them to agree upon a common course or policy and lose for them the confidence and the support of the majority of the House; and just as soon as you place the government in that position, just so soon do you make it impossible for any government to continue and make permanent progress in political matters or in policy. Let us take, for example, the tariff question. The Conservative party, as is well known, for years has had a policy of reasonable protection. Of late years wa have a new political organization, which commenced with one idea, and most of the members still have that one idea. Some of them have departed to other quarters, but most of them still have the one idea. The Progressive party have as their ultimate goal, free trade; they want free exchange in commodities with all the nations of the world. But take our friends of the Liberal party- what can we say of them? We must say that on this question they have no policy or at least their words and

acts do not agree to such an extent that we can come to an intelligent conclusion. Supposing we take the question of horseracing, in which some hon. gentlemen are interested, and on which I do not think unanimity could be found either in the Cabinet or in any party in this House. Let us say that we had an election under the system of proportional representation, and in that election we had some hon. gentleman, perhaps the hon. member for Brant (Mr. Good), running as a special candidate in favour of horseracing, and, on the other hand, we had the hon. member for Victoria City (Mr. Tolmie) running especially as an anti-horse-racing candidate. Then we might have another gentleman running as a special candidate for prohibition and another running in the liquor interest. We might have some running as straight Conservatives, some as straight Liberals, and others as Labour candidates. This might go on until, in a constituency, you might have half a dozen or a dozen different candidates, each one basing his appeal to the public on some question of public importance, or some question of class prejudice, or some question involving a special fad in regard to which he is an expert. After the election, perhaps, the House would find itself with eight or ten

Proportional Representation

different paities, each experts on a fad. A government has to be formed and the question arises-how are you going to combine the hon. member for Brant and the hon. member for Victoria under some policy and let them work out a system of government? Unless a cabinet has the support of a majority of the House, it cannot continue in office. Only recently the government have taken the stand that on an adverse vote, they are not in favour of having a special want of confidence vote. They hold that it is consistent with our constitutional form of government that if an adverse vote is recorded against the government on an important question, or on almost any question, they must take that as an indication that the administration has lost the confidence of the House. How can you reconcile that principle of constitutional government with the principle involved in proportional representation, under which all ideas of government responsibility are dissipated?

Let me continue the illustration which I have been giving. You have eight or ten groups in the House and you want to form a cabinet of seventeen men. It is not possible to secure the support of a majority of the House unless you can combine the leaders of several of those groups in a cabinet under some policy. When you do that, problems will arise in this way to confront the Cabinet. For instance, the question will be started under a resolution by some private member who, perhaps, has a political end to serve by moving his resolution. He will raise some question in regard to horse-racing, and immediately the hon. member for Brant, being the champion of horse-racing, is going to say to himself: "Now, shall I do my duty to my country and stand by a general policy of advantage to the country and by the rest of the members of the Cabinet, and thereby commit political suicide; or shall I save myself politically before my constituents so that I may be re-elected by saying: 'I will have nothing to do with this; I will stand on my pledge to the people to have horse-racing, whether this government exists or not.' " In short, when you come to apply proportional representation to municipal government, much may be said in favour of the principle, and for my part I am rather disposed to accept the principle for municipal systems of government; but when you come to apply proportional representation to the British system of government, you necessarily develop a system of group government, and when you endeavour to have cabinet unanimity and responsibility under the British system of government and, on the other hand, you are

trying, by the form of your elections, to have in this House diversified groups which it is almost impossible to draw together, you are going to have a complex situation which will not make for strong government, consistency and permanency in policy, and which will not redound to the best interests of Canada. In order to have, in a new and vigorous country like Canada, effective policies that can be carried out over a period of years, you must have strong government and strong men who stand together on principles. You can have that only under the system which has been developed over a period of seven hundred years. Unless you are prepared to change your system of government; unless you are prepared to accept the French system, which is largely a bureaucratic system, a highly centralized system in which all the authority is centred at Paris and in which the ministers themselves in fact share their responsibilities with highly paid officials who can appear in the Chamber of Deputies and speak on public questions on behalf of their ministers, you cannot apply proportional representation. The hon. member for Brant was perfectly right when he cited a number of countries in Europe which have proportional representation; but their system of government is different from ours, and the success of the British system of government has been based upon our cabinet system which is distinctive from any other cabinet in the world. In the United States you have a cabinet in which the responsibility of the ministers is to the President and not to the House of Representatives. They advise the President; they are elected for a given term of years, and you may have an anomalous, situation, such as that which arose at the time of making the Treaty of Versailles, where the President of the American Republic went over to Europe to a great international conference, the like of which had never before been heard of, with tremendous responsibility upon his shoulders, where he took along with him men who were eminent in statesmanship in that country and endeavoured to lay before the people of Europe principles which, they intimated, the people of the United States were in favour of, and where they endeavoured to bind the United States to a treaty and to a system of after-war problems which were found, when the matter was referred to the people of the United States, not to be in accord with the popular will. Could that happen under our system of government? Not at all. When our representatives proceeded to Europe in connection with the Treaty of Versailles, the Cabinet would know that they would have to

Proportional Representation

keep in touch with the members of their party which was in the majority in this House. The members on their part would be in constant communication with various organizations and men of influence in order to sense the trend of public opinion in their constituencies, and just as soon as a big question of international consideration came up, public opinion in each member's constituency would be brought to bear upon him at once. In turn, he would communicate with his minister, and in turn, if you have enough of those communications from members to show the prevailing will of the people, you have an expression of the popular will coming to the government of the country in a fashion which enables that government to act in accordance with the prevailing will of the people. Under our system members of the government, engaged in any international matter or any question of domestic policy, are, through the flexible system of government which we have, constantly in touch with public opinion in a manner which does not exist in France, the United States or Belgium, or in a number of other countries to which the hon. member referred. Therefore, I conclude with this reference, that the real point of the question in this: Will the system of proportional

representation not make for group government and for dissipation of cabinet unity, with consequent weakness of policy and lack of progress in this country? Words which I have heard the Prime Minister use are applicable in this case. This is an innovation which is not suitable to our constitution, and those who think well and seriously on this question- and I believe a large majority of the government will take the same view-will not allow this innovation in our form of constitution at the present time.

Topic:   PROPORTIONAL REPRESENTATION IN MULTIMEMBER CONSTITUENCIES
Permalink
CON

John Lawrence Stansell

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. J. L. STANSELL (EastElgin):

I desire to deal only with one phase of the resolution submitted by the hon. member for Brant (Mr. Good). But before doing so I might make an observation. I noticed that when the hon. member who has just taken his seat (Mr. Ladner) referred, by way of comparison, to the possible situation that might exist where the hon. member for Brant might be appealing as a direct representative of the racing interests, the remark seemed to occasion a little merriment. However, I read in a recent issue of the Canadian Sportsman that a famous Canadian racehorse, known as Canada's Iron Horse, has won 29 races in the past season and has a couple of brothers and sisters that give promise of equal development; and these horses are owned and developed by the well-known J. J. Morrison, secretary of the United Farmers of

Ontario. In the light of this, I can understand that it is within the bounds of possibility that some time in the future that gentleman's faithful follower, the member for Brant, might be appealing on such a platform. In reference to the present question, however, I am in sympathy with the hon. member for Comox-Alberni (Mr. Neill). It seems to me that we should consider just how it would affect the particular district with which each of us is most familiar. This resolution calls for the constitution of one or more multi-member constituencies for the purpose of experimentation at the next general election, and I can consider it only in view of the possibility that one of these multi-member constituencies might be in my own district, where I am sure that ninety per cent of the people-I can safely speak for that percentage-would be absolutely opposed to this system being tried in that district and their being represented by perhaps five members. As the hon. member for Comox-Alberni pointed out, it would be impossible for candidates under such circumstances to conduct their election campaign, and almost impossible, after election, to represent the people. While, therefore, this system may have some merit in theory, I am very much afraid that it would be impracticable in operation, and were I to support the resolution as it stands I should simply be voting to impose upon the people of some other district a condition which I should not be willing to have applied to my own. I think, therefore, that it is the duty of this House to oppose the resolution in its present form.

Topic:   PROPORTIONAL REPRESENTATION IN MULTIMEMBER CONSTITUENCIES
Permalink
CON

William Garland McQuarrie

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. W. G. McQUARRIE (New Westminster) :

There seems to be some diffidence on the part of hon. members about discussing this very important question. I do not know the explanation; possibly there is one.

Topic:   PROPORTIONAL REPRESENTATION IN MULTIMEMBER CONSTITUENCIES
Permalink
CON

Arthur Meighen (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MEIGHEN:

The same old one.

Topic:   PROPORTIONAL REPRESENTATION IN MULTIMEMBER CONSTITUENCIES
Permalink
CON

William Garland McQuarrie

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. McQUARRIE:

I wonder whether there is some tacit understanding between the members to my left and the members on the other side of the House, that this resolution shall go through. I have heard that the members on the other side are all very busy trying to figure out how they can secure safe seats for themselves and for others who may be expected to support them in the next house. There seems to be an air of mystery pervading these premises which I suppose is reflected in the condition we find here to-day. Now, on an important question like this, it seems to me, we might very well expect to hear a declaration of policy not only from the government, but from its supporters.

Proportional Representation

Topic:   PROPORTIONAL REPRESENTATION IN MULTIMEMBER CONSTITUENCIES
Permalink
PRO

John Livingstone Brown

Progressive

Mr. BROWN:

And also the opposition.

Topic:   PROPORTIONAL REPRESENTATION IN MULTIMEMBER CONSTITUENCIES
Permalink
CON

Arthur Meighen (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MEIGHEN:

This is the fifth member of the opposition to speak.

Topic:   PROPORTIONAL REPRESENTATION IN MULTIMEMBER CONSTITUENCIES
Permalink
CON

William Garland McQuarrie

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. McQUARRIE:

And also from the Progressives. I have been comparing the present resolution with the one which has just passed and I find there is a marked difference between them. In the one which was passed there was set out a positive declaration ol the House as to what should occur in singlemember constituencies, if I may put it that way. The present resolution seems to be an experimental one. Now, the hon. member who moved the resolution advanced a very strong argument for proportional representation. Well, if proportional representation is a good thing and if the government, as they imply by their silence, are in favour of it, then why do we not pass a resolution advo- . eating proportional representation as a policy? Why should we consider a resolution such as this, the effect of which is very problematical to say the least? Why is it necessary to have a hesitation policy, so to speak? Why is it necessary to move a resolution which might mean something or might mean nothing, and which would leave the door open for manipulation at will? We have had in this parliament several very marked examples of change of policy on the part of the government, notably in reference to the budget of last year. I suppose the reason why this resolution is framed in such un-5 p.m. certain terms is because the mover thought that in that way it would appeal more strongly to the government and he might get them to consent to it, whereas if it were in more definite terms he would not. What would be the result if this resolution passed? It would simply mean that the government could pick out some district where they thought the experiment would work advantageously to them and adversely to their opponents, and put it into force. It is very unsatisfactory to leave the matter in that way, for the government could apply proportional representation in a particular district and leave all the other districts to be dealt with under the old system. If we are to have proportional representation at all, why not have it all over the country? If it is a good thing why not let us have it generally? Why is not the government strong enough to initiate a policy that means something, and stand by it? The hon. member who moved the resolution said something about the western cities, and he read an extract from an Edmonton newspaper which 26

indicated that Edmonton had at last adopted proportional representation and that, in doing so, it had come into line with the other western cities. I am quite aware that hon. members from the prairies seem to think that the prairie provinces constitute the whole of the West.

Topic:   PROPORTIONAL REPRESENTATION IN MULTIMEMBER CONSTITUENCIES
Permalink
LIB
CON

William Garland McQuarrie

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. McQUARRIE:

They overlook British Columbia, which is the real West. In this particular instance, as in a great many others, British Columbia has been a little bit in advance of the other parts of this country, and more particularly of the prairies. We have tried out proportional representation in a great many places. We had it in my own city of New Westminster; we had it in Nelson, in Victoria, in North Vancouver and elsewhere, but in all these places, after a short trial, it was decided that proportional representation was nothing but a fad; that it was unworkable and unsatisfactory, and therefore it was discarded. So far as I am aware the only city in British Columbia that now has proportional representation is Vancouver. They tried it again there this year, and I believe they found it very unsatisfactory; at least, so I would judge from the newspaper comments and from public statements in regard to the matter. I think I am safe in saying that proportional representation will be discarded in Vancouver before the next election. That is the way the system has worked out in the municipal politics of British Columbia. We do not like it; no matter what side of politics we are on, we are opposed to it, and we have got rid of it. If this parliament decides to bring in proportional representation I am sure that in a few years they will decide that it is a fad, that it is unworkable and unsatisfactory, and will wish to discard it.

One point involved in this resolution that I would like to touch upon is the constitution of one or more multi-member constituencies. We in British Columbia have tried that, too. In connection with provincial elections there have been some multi-membered constituencies, but there is a strong agitation at present to have that arrangement done away with because it is found in practice to be very unsatisfactory. Why should one man have the right to vote for five members while another has the right to vote for only one? And why should there be five members sitting for one constituency while other constituencies have only one representative? Personally I am opposed to this resolution. In the first place I am opposed to proportional representation, and in the next place I am opposed

Proportional Representation

to the motion, because I fear there is some subterfuge in it. In any case, it is a very uncertain quantity, and I don't know how the government would proceed to work out the problem if the resolution were adopted.

Topic:   PROPORTIONAL REPRESENTATION IN MULTIMEMBER CONSTITUENCIES
Permalink
PRO

John Livingstone Brown

Progressive

Mr. J. L. BROWN (Lisgar):

We have

heard some arguments advanced against this resolution-at least what purported to be arguments; if hon. members have any real ones to offer I wish they would let us have them. Many attempts have been made to set up men of straw and then to knock them down. It has been suggested that the government in this case might, for instance, establish one or two multi-membered constituencies where the advantage would be particularly to themselves. I might remind the hon. member who has advanced that argument that the matter would not be left in the hands of the government.; in fact, the government has already declared that the details of redistribution are to be dealt with by a committee of the House. I know that governments in the past have done some very strange things in the way of gerrymandering constituencies. It was done as far back as the election of 1882, if my memory serves me correctly.

Topic:   PROPORTIONAL REPRESENTATION IN MULTIMEMBER CONSTITUENCIES
Permalink
LIB
PRO

John Livingstone Brown

Progressive

Mr. BROWN:

But as time went on it was recognized that though the people of Canada would stand for much, there was a limit to what they would put up with, so later a different system was adopted in connection with redistribution. While I say I can understand governments doing much in that direction, I can scarcely understand the present government singling out, for instance, Toronto, and naming that as one of the multi-membered constituencies, and neglecting to put Montreal in the same class. Public opinion simply would not stand for any such demonstration of partisanship as that. Surely, therefore, the hon. member is setting up a man of straw when he even suggests such a possibility.

Another hon. member tried to raise a point against the resolution by attempting to discern some difference between the resolution in favour of the preferential ballot and the one which declares for proportional representation. I submit that both are explicit and definite. The first one declares definitely in favour of the preferential ballot in single-member constituencies, plainly indicating that in no person's mind is there the thought that at present there shall not be or will not be a large number of single-member constituencies. The second declares that it is advisable that parliament should name a number of multi-membered constituencies in which the principle of

proportional representation might be tried. That is objected to by one hon. member as experimental. To a certain extent it may be experimental, and it is proposed that the experiment be tried in those places where the system will be given the greater opportunity of demonstrating its success. It has been demonstrated in the provincial elections in Winnipeg that proportional representation is a success. The member for Centre Winnipeg (Mr. Woodsworth) has declared what is well known to every person in Manitoba, that there is practically no opposition in Winnipeg to the application of that principle in provincial elections. An hon. member of the opposition who seemed to constitute the only opposition to the resolution, made reference to the case of Winnipeg, and if I understood his argument it was that proportional reprsentation did not bring about the results it was intended to accomplish; that a certain number of votes went to independents who were not able to elect a candidate. It must be admitted, Sir, that a real independent is somewhat handicapped in proportional representation unless he represents a great cause or has outstanding personality But it is making a false argument to lump all the independents together and say that they constitute one party. We have independent men, but the name "independent party" is paradoxical; therefore the hon. member's argument in that respect has no force whatever.

I wish now to deal with the argument that proportional representation does not fit in with the British constitution, as advanced by the hon. member for Vancouver South (Mr. Ladner). He made the same argument last year, in substantiation of which he referred to Lord Bryce. Most hon. members at the time got the impression that he was referring to Lord Bryce as one who was opposed to proportional representation. He has now corrected that impression, but I do not see that it affects his argument. He admits that Lord Bryce is a great authority on constitutional government. He admits, on the other hand, that Lord Bryce is in favour of proportional representation, as has been abundantly proven by the hon. member for Brant (Mr. Good), who has cited a number of quotations. Therefore, in the mind of a great constitutional authority like Lord Bryce, there is no inconsistency between constitutional government and proportional representation, and if the hon. member for Vancouver South (Mr. Ladner), sees any inconsistency between these two positions, it is up to him to demonstate it a little more clearly than has been done up to the present time.

Proportional Representation

What do we want, first of all, in an electoral system? We want a principle that will secure in the highest degree possible a fair expression of the mind of the people. We must all admit that the system we have followed all these years has served fairly well to achieve that purpose, but we are all compelled to admit that it has had many defects. It can be shown that this House or any other elective house has not altogether always been representative of the will of the people in proportion to the way in which, they expressed their will at the polls. Indeed, it is a well-known fact that on one occasion in the United States the President was elected by an actual minority of the votes that were cast. When new systems are proposed I have found that there has been a tendency on the part of men opposed to those systems to hunt up all the objections they can find, and think that they have proved their case when they show that the new system is not perfect. So far as the preferential ballot is concerned, I admit that it is not perfect; but I do contend that it gets us a little nearer the result we want to obtain than did the old system, and so also in regard to proportional representation. We may find difficulties and what seem to be anomalies, but what we will find-and I think this has been demonstrated in more places than one but particularly in the city of Winnipeg, with which I am most familiar,-is that wherever there is any considerable minority of opinion, that considerable minority-not all minorities, but any considerable minority-will be able to secure representation.

Topic:   PROPORTIONAL REPRESENTATION IN MULTIMEMBER CONSTITUENCIES
Permalink
LIB

Andrew Ross McMaster

Liberal

Mr. ANDREW McMASTER (Brome):

We have in this House a certain touchstone whereby we may prove, or tend to make up our minds, whether a thing is really progressive, really in line of advance, and that is the effect which it will have on the Conservative representation from British Columbia. If a proposal in this House meets with the unqualified opposition of the gentlemen of that once great and ancient party in this House who come from the sea of mountains, from the western Pacific province, we know that we must be right. I would beg to point out the change that has taken place in the mentality of the Conservatice party within the last few years. There was from the province of Quebec years ago a great Conservative leader, now dead, by the name of F. D. Monk. He was one of the most fervent advocates and hot-gospellers for this principle and this mode of election known as proportional representation, and do we see in the sliding back from his teaching of the Conservative party that they

26$

have become more reactionary in the present than they were in the past? It is to be hoped not.

Topic:   PROPORTIONAL REPRESENTATION IN MULTIMEMBER CONSTITUENCIES
Permalink
CON

John Lawrence Stansell

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. STANSELL:

Would the hon. member say what progress is denoted when he finds himself opposed entirely by the members on his own side of the House?

Topic:   PROPORTIONAL REPRESENTATION IN MULTIMEMBER CONSTITUENCIES
Permalink
LIB

Andrew Ross McMaster

Liberal

Mr. McMASTER:

That is a question which I will answer by saying I do not think I am. called upon to reply.

A discussion of this sort as a rule, Mr. Speaker, tends to show how inadequately the opponents of this system have grasped its real meaning and effect. Proportional representation proposes that instead of the present principle of single-seated constituencies, we should have constituencies electing at least three, and preferably five members; sometimes more, but I think five is the best number for the proper working out of the system. It does not, as the member for one of the Vancouvers seems to think, give a man the right to vote for four or five candidates, but it does give the voter, be he man or woman, the chance to express as many preferences as there are candidates. He expresses his first preference by putting the figure 1 in front of the candidate whom he wishes to see elected above all others. He puts the figure 2 before the candidate to whom he wishes his vote to be transferred in either of two cases; first, in the case of his first choice having so many votes as to make his vote unnecessary, or secondly, in the event of his first choice having so few votes as to make his vote useless. That is the principle, and I think it is an excellent one. Let me ask this question, and I would direct it in all courtesy and politeness to the party seated angularly opposite to myself: Do they think that a system the result of which has been that the Conservatives of Nova Scotia are unrepresented in this House, is a proper system? No answer. Silence does not in this instance indicate consent. I am sure that with me they consider that the Nova Scotia Conservatives, being only less intelligent or almost as intelligent as the Nova Scotia Liberals, should be represented in this House in proportion to their number. Do they believe that a system which has brought it about that the whole of the Conservatives who dwell in the province of Quebec should not have a voice here to represent them is a proper system? I do not believe they can think that it is a proper system.

What is a proper system for a democratic assembly? Is it not, as Mr. Asquith has said, that there should not be a substantial strain of public opinion unrepresented in this House

Proportional Representation

of Commons? 1 think we shall all agree upon that. Is not this proportional representation system a good way in which to get such a ' proportional representation of public opinion? I have not had the privilege of listening to all the arguments or assertions which have been made against proportional representation. It has been suggested that the government may have some nefarious scheme up their sleeve which they may use to put proportional representation in practice in some part of the country where it will turn to their advantage, and not to put it in practice where it would be to their disadvantage. I think that argument or assertion has been dealt with very well by the hon. member for Lisgar (Mr. Brown), and it is unnecessary for me to speak more upon it.

I think that in this age of the world's history we have to be prepared to make experiments. When Simon de Montfort called the knights from the shires and the burgesses from the boroughs to the Commons of England, I suppose that was an innovation. They had not had it before. They had only had the great nobles called to give their advice to the King. We have got to make innovations unless we are prepared to stand in a position of immovability; and I do not think that even my hon. friends from British Columbia-following a political faith with which I am not in sympathy,-desire that.

I have little to add to the discussion. The present situation appears to me to be one which does not appeal to logical or righteous minds, it does not give us proper representation of the thought and the political sympathies of the people; therefore, we should strive to find out something that will.

I have heard this argument advanced as against proportional representation: They say that if you have proportional representation you will get too close a correspondence between the numbers of men in the House of different political faiths and the number of people in the country, that the differences in number between different groups which go to make up the electorate are so close that you will get in the House parties too evenly balanced. I have heard that argument used, and the logical deduction to be made from that view is, that you require some disturbing factor so that majorities or minorities will be increased or decreased extravagantly. Now you might have, and it has happened from time to time under the present system, a majority when, as a matter of fact, you should get a minority.

I quoted this case in the debate on this question last year. I think it was in 1886

[Mr. McMaster.l

that Mr. Gladstone went to the people on the Home Rule bill and he was beaten and, as far as the membership of the House of Commons was concerned, badly beaten. It is a question whether, if he had only won on that occasion, the last fifty years of strife in Ireland might not have been avoided. But that is a side issue. The point I want to make is that in the election of 1886 Mr. Gladstone, was supported by the majority of the people and on a proper counting of the votes, or had there been in operation such a system of proportional representation as we should aim for-I do not see that it is a possibility at the present time in Canada in view of geographical conditions-had there been a truer representation of the different proportions into which public opinion divided the English people, Gladstone would have been elected and not defeated.

Now to think that democracy is properly represented when you have elections under a system which gives you a majority of the members from a minority of the electorate is, of course, too absurd for further argument. I would commend this resolution to the House. I think it is a reasonable suggestion that the matter should be tried out. It should be tried out in several of the large cities. I would suggest that it might be possible to divide the great island of Montreal into three constituencies electing five members each: that the great city of Toronto might be divided into two constituencies electing five members each; and that the experiment be tried in some other great city. I do not recall what representation Winnipeg is entitled to in the federal arena but suppose she is entitled to five. That city for federal purposes might form one great electoral division. Then it could not be said that the proposal was brought forward for political purposes or for getting party advantage. The three great parts of the country would have the opportunity of learning about this system and of trying it out. I commend, in all seriousness, this resolution to the acceptance of the House.

Mr. E. J. MeMURRAY (North Winnipeg): I rise to oppose the resolution of the hon. member for Brant (Mr. Good). I come from the city of Winnipeg where this proportional representation scheme has been tested, and it may be of interest to the House to consider some of the aspects of that election there. At the last election in Winnipeg there were 43 candidates, and the ballot looked like the Greek alphabet or a circus poster. Those men represented all kinds of ideas. To the average voter the real issue was clouded, and disappeared. One of the candidates, who secured

Proportional Representation

the highest vote there, ran as candidate of the Moderation League. He got an eccentric vote. The same thing held with a great many of the other candidates.

Now then what do we get under the system? You have an election and you have your candidates. These candidates are elected, one man probably because of his personal popularity. He belongs to a large number of clubs and so on; he is a good fellow; his friends mark him number 1. They forget the issue he is standing on, and you have coming to the House a man without any clear cut ideas upon the paramount issues, but elected because of his personal popularity. The man has entirely taken the place of either his party or the main issues. Now that is not a mere idea, it is an actual fact. A voter says l< I will vote for Brown, I am not sure of his policy but I like Brown himself". He forgets altogether the real issue, and so in an election of that kind the paramount issues are ignored.

Now another matter comes up in connection with this question. Take the man who gets the highest vote. The man next to him may be some 80 or 90 ballots below on the first vote. The man at the bottom goes out. His second-choice votes are given for the third man. The third man with a majority of number 1 votes and number 2 votes is elected over the man who has the largest number of first choices. It works out very much like things do in the case of an elocution contest. After the competition the judges go out and decide -one judge for A, another for B, and the third for C. They all agree that B is the second man, none of'them can agree upon the first man, and B who is not the first choice of any of the judges gets the prize. You will have men coming to this House under this system which I submit is not consonant with the party system of government, who were elected not upon the main issue but upon eccentric and freak ideas.

Topic:   PROPORTIONAL REPRESENTATION IN MULTIMEMBER CONSTITUENCIES
Permalink
LAB

William Irvine

Labour

Mr. IRVINE:

Is it not the case in the practice of proportional representation that the low man drops out first where a decision has not been reached and of course has not been given?

Topic:   PROPORTIONAL REPRESENTATION IN MULTIMEMBER CONSTITUENCIES
Permalink
LIB

Edward James McMurray

Liberal

Mr. McMURRAY:

That is what I say precisely. The low man drops out first. His majority of votes, his number 2 votes, will be given probably for the third candidate, and he is elected upon a majority of number 2 votes and number 1 votes beating the man who had number 1 votes ahead of him.

Topic:   PROPORTIONAL REPRESENTATION IN MULTIMEMBER CONSTITUENCIES
Permalink

February 19, 1923